National Rifle Association logo
|Formation||November 17, 1871|
|5 million (as of May 2013)|
|James W. Porter II|
Executive Vice President
|$231 million - total expenses (75% program services, 13.3% administrative costs, 11.7% fundraising costs) |
The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) is an American nonprofit organization founded in 1871 that promotes firearm competency, safety, and ownership, as well as police training, marksmanship, hunting and self-defense training in the United States. The NRA is also one of the United States' largest certifying bodies for firearm safety training and proficiency training courses for police departments, recreational hunting, and child firearm safety. The organization publishes several magazines and sponsors marksmanship events featuring shooting skill and sports. The NRA is designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(4) with four 501(c)(3) charitable subsidiaries and a Section 527 lobbying group segregated fund: The NRA Political Victory Fund. The NRA controls through its board of trustees the following 501(c)(3) organizations: NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund, NRA Foundation Inc., NRA Special Contribution Fund (dba NRA Whittington Center), and NRA Freedom Action Foundation. The NRA is also the parent organization of affiliated groups such as the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA).
The NRA's political activity is based on the tenet that firearm ownership is a civil right protected by the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The group has a nearly century long record of influencing as well as lobbying for or against proposed firearm legislation on behalf of its members, and calls itself America's longest-standing civil rights organization. Observers and lawmakers see the NRA as one of the top three most influential lobbying groups in Washington. NRA membership surpassed 5 million in May 2013.
The National Rifle Association was first chartered in the state of New York on November 17, 1871 by Army and Navy Journal editor William Conant Church and General George Wood Wingate. Its first president was Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, who had worked as a Rhode Island gunsmith, and Wingate was the original secretary of the organization. Church succeeded Burnside as president in the following year.
Union Army records for the Civil War indicate that its troops fired about 1,000 rifle shots for each Confederate soldier hit, causing General Burnside to lament his recruits: "Out of ten soldiers who are perfect in drill and the manual of arms, only one knows the purpose of the sights on his gun or can hit the broad side of a barn." The generals attributed this to the use of volley tactics, devised for earlier, less accurate smoothbore muskets.
Recognizing a need for better training, Wingate traveled to Europe and observed European armies' marksmanship training programs. With plans provided by Wingate, the New York Legislature funded the construction of a modern range at Creedmore, Long Island, for long-range shooting competitions. Wingate then wrote a marksmanship manual.
After winning the British Empire championship at Wimbledon, London, in 1874, the Irish Rifle Team issued a challenge through the New York Herald to riflemen of the United States to raise a team for a long-range match to determine an Anglo-American championship. The NRA organized a team through a subsidiary amateur rifle club. Remington Arms and Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company produced breech-loading weapons for the team. Although muzzle-loading rifles had long been considered more accurate, eight American riflemen won the match firing breech-loading rifles. Publicity of the event generated by the New York Herald helped to establish breech-loading firearms as suitable for military marksmanship training, and promoted the NRA to national prominence.
Eight U.S. Presidents have been NRA members. They are Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.
The NRA organized rifle clubs in other states, and many state National Guard organizations sought NRA advice to improve members' marksmanship. Wingate's markmanship manual evolved into the United States Army marksmanship instruction program. Former President Ulysses S. Grant served as the NRA's eighth President and General Philip H. Sheridan as its ninth. The U.S. Congress created the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice in 1901 to include representatives from the NRA, National Guard, and United States military services. A program of annual rifle and pistol competitions was authorized, and included a national match open to military and civilian shooters. NRA headquarters moved to Washington, D.C. to facilitate the organization's advocacy efforts. In 1903, Congress authorized the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which was designed to train civilians who might later be called to serve in the U.S. military. Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal began the manufacture of M1903 Springfield rifles for civilian members of the NRA in 1910. The Director of Civilian Marksmanship began manufacture of M1911 pistols for NRA members in August 1912.
The NRA formed a legislative affairs division in response to debate concerning passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act, some of the earliest federal gun control legislation in the United States. The NRA supported the act along with the Gun Control Act of 1968. The two acts collectively created a system to license gun dealers and imposed taxes on the private ownership of machine guns.
In 1975, the NRA created the Institute for Legislative Action to lobby for Second Amendment rights as a complement to its core mission of supporting hunting, conservation and marksmanship.
Until the middle 1970s, the NRA had mainly focused on sportsmen, hunters and target shooters, and had downplayed issues of gun control. The 1977 annual convention in Cincinnati would be a defining election for the organization and came to be known as "The Cincinnati Revolution." At the convention, the leadership had planned an elaborate new headquarters in Colorado, designed to promote sportsmanship and conservation. Within the organization, now existed a group of members whose central concern was Second Amendment rights. Those activists defeated the incumbents in 1977 and elected Harlon Carter as executive director and Neal Knox as head of the ILA.
After 1977, the organization expanded its membership by focusing heavily on political issues and forming coalitions with conservative politicians, most of them Republicans. With a goal to weaken the Gun Control Act of 1968, Knox's NRA successfully lobbied Congress to pass the McClure-Volker firearms decontrol bill of 1986 and worked to reduce the powers of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 1982, Knox was ousted as director of the ILA but began mobilizing outside the NRA framework and continued to promote opposition to gun control laws.
At the 1991 national convention, Knox's supporters were elected to the board, and named staff lobbyist Wayne LaPierre as the executive vice president. The NRA focused its attention on the gun control policies of the Clinton Administration. Knox again lost power in 1997, as he lost reelection to a coalition of moderate leaders who supported movie star Charlton Heston, despite Heston's past support of gun control legislation. In 1994, the NRA unsuccessfully opposed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, but successfully lobbied for the ban's 2004 expiration. Heston was elected president in 1998 and became a highly visible spokesman for the organization. In an effort to improve the NRA's image, Heston presented himself as the voice of reason in contrast to Knox.
On August 2, 2013, the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum opened in Springfield, Missouri. It opened after nearly a decade of work by the NRA and Bass Pro Shops. There are almost 1,000 sporting artifacts from the 1600s to today, including some historically significant firearms from the NRA Museum Collection. The museum hosts firearms and artwork from the Remington Arms Company factory collection, a multi-million-dollar collection of U.S. Military sidearms, engraved Colt revolvers of the American frontier, the guns of Annie Oakley and firearms of U.S. Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
Safety and sporting programs
NRA firearms safety programs
The NRA sponsors a range of programs designed to encourage the safe use of firearms. NRA hunting safety courses are offered in the United States for both children and adults. Classes focusing on firearm safety, particularly for women, have become popular. Intended for school-age children, the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" program encourages the viewer to "Stop! Don't touch! Leave the area! Tell an adult!" if the child ever sees a firearm lying around. The NRA has also published an instructional guide, called The Basics of Personal Protection In The Home (published in 2000).
Prior to 1992, the NRA governed shooting sports in the United States. Spurred on by the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the NRA mandated the establishment of National Teams and National Development Teams, a national coaching staff, year-round training programs, and a main training site for Olympic shooting sports.
In 1992, USA Shooting replaced the NRA as the National Governing Body for Olympic shooting. In 2000 the NRA withdrew as a member of the National Three-Position Air Rifle Council. Additionally, the NRA is not directly involved in the practical pistol competitions conducted by the International Practical Shooting Confederation and International Defensive Pistol Association, or in cowboy action shooting, but each organization promotes membership with the NRA.
The NRA hosts the National Rifle and Pistol Matches at Camp Perry, events which are considered to be the "world series of competitive shooting." Commonly known as Bullseye or Conventional Pistol, shooters from the military as well as many top-ranked civilians gather annually in July and August for this competition. The NRA also sponsors its National Muzzle Loading Championship at the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association's Friendship, Indiana facility. Additionally, the Bianchi Cup is hosted by NRA.
The current NRA competitions division publishes its own rulebooks, maintains a registry of marksmanship classifications, and sanctions matches. The NRA also represents the United States on the International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations (ICFRA) which administers the World Long-Range Rifle Team Championships, contested every four years for the PALMA trophy.
The National Rifle Association issues credentials and trains firearm instructors in a variety of disciplines. NRA-credentialed instructors teach marksmanship, maintenance, and legalities. NRA Instructors are commonly found at privately owned firearms ranges, and are often employed by the Boy Scouts of America on their summer camps.
Relationship with other organizations
The National Rifle Association maintains ties with other organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and 4-H. Involvement includes monetary donations, equipment to supply firearms ranges, and instructors to assist in their programs. Notably, the Boy Scouts of America has strict guidelines on who is allowed to operate their ranges, the recognized personnel groups including NRA Certified Instructors along with military and law enforcement.
The NRA joined the American Civil Liberties Union and several other civil liberties organizations in joint letters to President Clinton on 10 January 1994 and to the House Committee on the Judiciary on 24 October 1995 calling for federal law enforcement reforms drawing on lessons from the Waco siege and Ruby Ridge.
In 2013, the NRA joined the ACLU in a lawsuit against the federal government over the National Security Agency's surveillance of Americans, citing concerns that the NSA's data collection violates gun owners' privacy and could potentially be used to create a national gun registry.
Fundraising and shooting support
Friends of NRA is a grassroots program that raises money for The NRA Foundation, the organization's 501(c)(3). As part of Friends of NRA activities, volunteers in the United States organize committees and plan events in their communities. Established in 1990, The NRA Foundation raises tax-deductible contributions in support of a wide range of firearm related public interest activities. These activities are designed to promote firearms and hunting safety, to enhance marksmanship skills of those participating in the shooting sports, and to educate the general public about firearms in their historic, technological and artistic context. Funds granted by The NRA Foundation benefit a variety of constituencies throughout the United States including children, youth, women, individuals with disabilities, gun collectors, law enforcement officers, hunters, and competitive shooters.
The Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the lobbying branch of the National Rifle Association of America. Members of Congress have ranked the NRA as the most powerful lobbying organization in the country several years in a row. Chris W. Cox is the NRA's chief lobbyist and principal political strategist, a position he has held since 2002. In its lobbying for gun rights, the NRA asserts that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to bear arms. The NRA opposes measures which it believes conflict with the Second Amendment and the right to privacy as it relates to gun owners. Additionally, the organization has invoked the Tenth Amendment to defend gun rights.
The NRA currently opposes most new gun-control legislation, calling instead for stricter enforcement of existing laws such as prohibiting convicted felons and violent criminals from possessing firearms and increased sentencing for gun-related crimes. The NRA also advocates for concealed carry in the United States. It also takes positions on non-firearm hunting issues, such as supporting wildlife management programs that allow hunting and opposing restrictions on devices like crossbows and leg hold traps.
The NRA supported the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), which regulated what were considered at the time "gangster weapons" such as machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers. However, the organization's position on parts of the act has since changed.
The 1937 Pittman–Robertson Act was passed which put an excise tax on the manufacture of firearms. The Act created an excise tax that provides funds to each state to manage such animals and their habitats. Prior to the creation of the Pittman–Robertson Act many species of wildlife were driven to or near extinction by hunting pressure and/or habitat degradation from humans.
The NRA supported the 1938 Federal Firearms Act (FFA) which established the Federal Firearms License (FFL) program. The FFA required all manufacturers and dealers of firearms who ship or receive firearms or ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce to have a license, and forbade them from transferring any firearm or most ammunition to any person interstate unless certain conditions were met. As a practical matter, this did not affect the interstate commerce in firearms or ammunition. It was with the adoption of the Gun Control Act in 1968, which repealed most of the FFA, that the lawful interstate trade of firearms was limited almost entirely to persons holding a federal firearms license.
The NRA supported and opposed parts of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which broadly regulated the firearms industry and firearms owners, primarily focusing on regulating interstate commerce in firearms by prohibiting interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers. The law was supported by America's oldest manufacturers (Colt, S&W, etc.) in an effort to forestall even greater restrictions which were feared in response to recent domestic violence. The NRA supported elements of the law, such as those forbidding the sale of firearms to convicted criminals and the mentally ill.
In 2000, when evidence surfaced that the Pittman-Robertson Act sportsman's conservation trust funds were being mismanaged, NRA board member and sportsman, U.S. Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs Improvement Act. The NRA backed bill passed the House 423-2 and became law on Nov. 1, 2000 and defines in what manner the monies can be spent.
In 2004, the NRA opposed renewal of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. The ban expired at midnight on September 13, 2004.
In 2005 President Bush signed into law the NRA backed Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products. The NRA-backed Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006 prohibited the confiscation of legal firearms from citizens during states of emergency.
In 2012, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the NRA called on the United States Congress to appropriate funds for a "National School Shield Program," under which armed police officers would protect students in every U.S. school. The NRA also announced the creation of a program that would advocate for best practices in the areas of security, building design, access control, information technology, and student and teacher training.
In 2005, the NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and others successfully sued New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and others to stop gun seizures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. On October 4, 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act.
In November 2005, the NRA and other gun advocates filed a lawsuit challenging San Francisco Proposition H, which banned the ownership and sales of firearms. The NRA argued that the proposition overstepped local government authority and intruded into an area regulated by the state. The San Francisco County Superior Court agreed with the NRA position. The city appealed the court's ruling, but lost a 2008 appeal. In October 2008, San Francisco was forced to pay a $380,000 settlement to the National Rifle Association and other plaintiffs to cover the costs of litigating Proposition H.
After a 2008 ruling (District of Columbia v. Heller) by the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed the individual right to own a handgun, the NRA has participated in lawsuits contesting such legislation.
In 2009 the NRA filed suit again (Guy Montag Doe v. San Francisco Housing Authority) in the city of San Francisco challenging the city's ban of guns in public housing. On January 14, 2009, the San Francisco Housing Authority reached a settlement with the NRA, which allows residents to possess legal firearms within a SFHA apartment building.
In 2010, the NRA sued the city of Chicago, Illinois (McDonald v. Chicago) and the Supreme Court ruled that like other substantive rights, the right to bear arms is incorporated via the Fourteenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, and therefore applies to the states.
The NRA supported the case of Brian Aitken, a New Jersey resident sentenced to seven years in state prison for transporting guns without a carry permit. The organization's Civil Rights Defense Fund helped to pay Brian Aitken's legal bills. On December 20, 2010, Governor Chris Christie granted Aitken clemency and ordered Aitken's immediate release from prison.
The NRA's policy is that it will endorse any incumbent politician who supports its positions, even if the challenger supports them as well. For example, in the 2006 Senate Elections the NRA endorsed Rick Santorum over Bob Casey, Jr. even though they both had an "A" rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund, because Santorum was the incumbent.
The NRA endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in 1980 backing Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter. During the 2008 presidential campaign, the NRA spent $10 million in opposition to the election of then Senator Barack Obama.
The NRA was influential in the Colorado recall election of 2013, which resulted in the recall of two Colorado state senators who had passed gun control legislation in the state. The Wall Street Journal viewed it as a major win for the NRA and a "stinging defeat" for Michael Bloomberg, who had supported the gun control measures and had contributed $350,000 to a Colorado committee formed to defeat the recall. Prior to the election, ousted Democratic State Senator Angela Giron had said, "For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that."
The NRA publishes a number of periodicals including  American Rifleman, American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, America's 1st Freedom and Shooting Sports USA. They have also published a collection of firearms titles through its affiliate Palladium Press LLC.
Current leadership and policies
The National Rifle Association is governed by a seventy-six member board of directors. There are seventy-five elected Directors that each serve a three year term. One director, the seventy-sixth, is elected to serve as a cross-over Director and "holds office from the adjournment of the Annual Meeting of Members at which [this person] was elected until the adjournment of the next Annual Meeting of Members, or until a successor is elected and qualified."
The directors choose the President, one or more Vice Presidents, and the Executive Vice President (the leading spokesman for the organization), along with a Secretary, and Treasurer from among the elected Directors. Additionally two other officers are elected by the Board of Directors, the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association General Operations and the Executive Director of the National rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA).
Charlton Heston served famously as president from 1997 to 2003. Ron Schmeits served from 2009–2011 and was followed by David Keene. Jim Porter was elected as the current president in 2013. John C. Sigler served 2007–2009. Sandra Froman served 2005–2007. Marion P. Hammer was the first female president, serving from 1995 to 1998.
The organization's executive vice president functions as chief executive officer. Wayne LaPierre has held this position since 1991. Chris W. Cox is the executive director of the NRA's lobbying branch, the Institute for Legislative Action. Cox has been appointed by LaPierre every year since 2002. Kyle Weaver is executive director of general operations.
James W. Porter II, an Alabama attorney, became the new president of the NRA on May 6, 2013, replacing Keene.
Finances and organizational structure
The NRA is a 501(c)(4) membership association with four 501(c)(3) charitable subsidiaries and a Section 527 Political Action Committee separate segregated fund. The NRA's four charities are NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund, NRA Foundation Inc., NRA Special Contribution Fund (dba NRA Whittington Center), and NRA Freedom Action Foundation.
According to published statements, the NRA's total income for 2011 was $218,983,530, with total expenditures of $231,071,589. In 2010, the organization reported an income of $227.8 million with roughly $115 million in revenue generated from fundraising, sales, advertising and royalties, with the remainder originating from membership dues. Corporate sponsors include a variety of companies such as outdoors supply, sporting goods companies, and firearm manufacturers.
Since 2005, the organization has received at least $14.8 million from more than 50 firearms-related firms In 2008, Beretta exceeded $2 million in donations to the NRA, and in 2012, Smith & Wesson reached $1 million. According to an April 2012 press release, Sturm, Ruger & Company raised $1.25 million through a program in which it donated $1 to the ILA for each gun it sold from May 2011 to May 2012.
In 2010, one of the organization's tax exempt 501(c)3 groups, the NRA Foundation, distributed $12.6 million to the NRA itself, and gave a further $5.5 million to local organizations such as 4-H and shooting clubs. The NRA Foundation has no staff and pays no salaries.
The NRA also raises a portion of its revenues through "round-up" programs, in which gun buyers and participating stores are invited to "round up" the purchase price to the nearest dollar as a voluntary contribution. According to the NRA's 2010 tax forms, the "round-up" funds have been allocated to both public interest programs and lobbying.
In six out of seven surveys conducted by Gallup since 1993, the majority of Americans reported holding a favorable opinion of the National Rifle Association. A Gallup survey conducted in December 2012 found that 54% of Americans held a favorable opinion of the NRA, with Republicans responding significantly more positively about the organization than Democrats. A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in April 2012 found that 82% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats see the NRA "in a positive light."
The NRA is criticized by groups advocating for gun control such as Americans for Gun Safety, Brady Campaign, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Million Mom March. Some newspaper editorial boards like the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have also criticized the NRA's positions.
Members of the U.S. Democratic Party and liberal commentators have frequently criticized the National Rifle Association's policies. On occasion, politicians in the U.S. Republican Party and conservative commentators have also criticized the organization. In 1969, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon resigned his "Honorary Life Membership" to the NRA. In 1995, former U.S. President George H. W. Bush also resigned his life membership to the organization after LaPierre sent him a letter that referred to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as "jack-booted government thugs". The NRA later apologized for the letter's language. After the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called an online video created by the NRA "reprehensible" and said that it "demeans" the organization. A senior lobbyist for the organization later characterized the video as "not particularly helpful" and "ill-advised." However, the NRA has also been criticized by other gun rights groups for doing too little to get existing restrictions repealed. Organizations such as Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) have at times disagreed with NRA for what they perceive as its willingness to compromise on legislation that would restrict access to firearms.
In its history, the NRA has had numerous notable members and officers from a variety of professions. Among these people are eight Presidents of the United States, two Vice Presidents of the United States, two Chief Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and several U.S. Congressmen, as well as legislators and officials of state governments. Past presidents of the association include Ambrose Burnside, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, Charlton Heston, and General Philip H. Sheridan. Other notable members include Olympian Karl Frederick, actress Whoopi Goldberg, civil rights activist Roy Innis, actor James Earl Jones, singer Miranda Lambert, NBA player Karl Malone, screen writer John Milius, actor Chuck Norris, musician Ted Nugent, Governor Sarah Palin, and actor Tom Selleck.
- Gun politics in the United States
- Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
- Concealed carry
- Right to keep and bear arms in the United States
- Gun safety
- Gun politics (worldwide)
- International advocacy groups with no connection to the NRA
- Viva Brazil Movement
- Dominion of Canada Rifle Association
- Canada Firearms Centre
- Canadian gun registry
- Gun politics in Canada
- Possession and Acquisition Licence
- National Firearms Association
- Federazione Italiana Storia Armi e Tiro (FISAT)
- National Arms Association of Spain (ANARMA)
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- NRA History
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